1. Is it safe to say that Christian Ponder is on the hot seat with Matt Cassel behind him at quarterback? In other words, if Ponder struggles, might the Vikings bench him?
I have a feeling that Ponder's leash is going to be much shorter this year with Cassel behind him on the depth chart than it was last year with Joe Webb as the No. 2 quarterback. As we saw in the playoff game at Green Bay last season, Webb isn't a traditional NFL quarterback, while Cassel is a guy who can run a pro-style offense efficiently (or at least has in the past). The Vikings think they have the ability to improve on their 10-6 record from last year, and in keeping with that, if Ponder struggles I think you'll see Matt Cassel. Do I think you'll see Cassel on Sunday in Detroit? Barring an injury to Ponder, I don't believe so... but if Ponder has a stretch like he had during the middle of last season, I think you'll eventually see Cassel.
2. What do you think Adrian Peterson will do for his encore after his ridiculous season in 2012?
We've heard all offseason about how Peterson can't be amazingly great for two consecutive seasons. I guess the best response that I can have to that, as a Vikings fan, is "why not?" Really, people expect guys like Aaron Rodgers and Calvin Johnson and Peyton Manning to be great year after year... why can't we expect the same thing out of Peterson?
I don't know if Peterson is going to run for 2,000 yards (or his stated goal of 2,500 yards) this season... hopefully he won't have to, as the passing offense will hopefully take a step forward and not leave Peterson with so much of the burden. I think he's going to have the best "follow-up" season to a 2,000-yard campaign that a running back has had. Barry Sanders currently holds that distinction with 1,491 yards in 1998. I think Peterson, barring an injury, will get past that and then some.
3. The Vikings ended up with three first-round picks this year. How have Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson looked so far?
Floyd had a knee issue following the first preseason game and has not seen game action since, though he did look impressive in his short time on the field in that game. With Kevin Williams looking more and more unlikely to play on Sunday, you'll probably be seeing a lot of Floyd in the opener. The Vikings were hoping that Floyd could be more of an understudy for Williams this season, but circumstances might push him into the breach more quickly than expected. Rhodes also had an issue that forced him to miss the preseason opener, but he also looked fairly solid in preseason action. He'll likely start at corner across from Chris Cook in this one.
Patterson has been fairly impressive considering the impression that most folks were under before the season. His first touch in the NFL was a 50-yard kickoff return, and he already looks to be more polished as a receiver than a lot of people were expecting. I don't think he'll start against the Lions, but he's going to be on the field a lot. The Vikings are going to try to find ways to get him the ball in space, much like they did with Percy Harvin the past few years.
4. Jared Allen is entering the final year of his contract with the Vikings. I'm sure the Lions would love for him to leave the NFC North, but there's probably no chance the situation gets to that point, right?
It's actually way more likely than you think. In fact, I think a lot of Vikings fans have already resigned themselves to the fact that Allen is not going to be back in 2014. The Vikings' top three defensive ends (Allen, Brian Robison and Everson Griffen) are all in the final year of their contracts. The word is out that the Vikings are already trying to work out a contract extension with Griffen, which is a wise move on their part. Allen's price tag this season is $17 million (a higher cap hit than any defensive player in the NFL), and if he has another double-digit sack year in 2013, I doubt he's going to be looking to take much of a cut from that. Franchising him would probably be out of the question, since that would push his price tag north of $20 million, and the Vikings aren't going to take that sort of cap hit again. Unless he's willing to take some sort of a "hometown discount," it's quite likely that Jared Allen could be wearing different colors in 2014.
5. After going 10-6 and making the playoffs last season, what are the expectations for the Vikings in 2013?
I think a lot of fans, myself included, are expecting something similar to that in 2013. Yes, the team lost Antoine Winfield and Percy Harvin, but they've also added some good young pieces. The offensive line returns intact, the front seven on defense remains solid and there's still that guy who wears No. 28 that people are going to have to be aware of all the time. The biggest questions are the development of Christian Ponder and the play of a very young secondary. If Ponder can take the step forward that Vikings fans are hoping for, the sky is the limit for this team, in my opinion. If he struggles... well, we get to start scouting quarterbacks for 2014. But this team has a lot of talent everywhere else, and if they don't make the playoffs again in 2013, I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed.